Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot and all the possessions that they had gathered and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran, and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east, and there he built an altar to the LORD and invoked the name of the LORD. And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.
Genesis 12:1-9; NRSVue
The story of the faith of Abraham begins here. Often the emphasis is put on the passage in Genesis 15 when God takes Abraham out into the night sky and asks him to count the stars, which then must have been magnificent in all their stellar wonder. Then telling “Abram” at the time (as here), “So shall your descendants be.” Then Abraham believing God’s word, and God reckoning it to Abraham as righteousness. And of course the other, Abraham’s willingness to follow through on God’s word to sacrifice his son Isaac. Both are talked about in the New Testament. And often there’s an emphasis on the first in the idea that it’s our faith alone that justifies, but we get some seeming push back from James who insists that works must follow for faith to be authentic, pointing to Abraham’s willing sacrifice of his son.
All of this needs to be considered in the entire narrative we find in the Hebrew Bible/ Christian Old Testament. And we find there a story of a human just like us, yes surely gifted in some good ways like we are too, but also not having everything together, and his life along with his wife Sarai (later, Sarah) unavoidably open for misunderstanding and false judgment from others, and as it turns out unavoidably needing the miraculous blessing of God. Everything about their experience cried out as contradictory to God’s initial and ongoing promise as spelled out right at the start in the passage above. It ended up being a matter of entrusting themselves to God. And within what turned out to be a rather long drawn out existence as strangers, even aliens, in a foreign land, but the land of promise for what would be the base of what God was going to do through Abraham and Sarah for the world.
Abraham is the father of all who believe. And this is not just a matter of believing and that’s it. It’s no less than entrusting ourselves, our lives fully into God’s hands. And involved in that is always the idea that this concerns all of life. I don’t entrust myself to God and then go and do whatever. We entrust ourselves to God so that we might live in the will of God, a different life entirely than what we would live otherwise. Nothing less than that.